Voice and Vision: WSW Announces Full Subsidization for All Residencies

March 29, 2019 by

For centuries, the great majority of women-identified artists had access only to domestic spaces —the kitchens, dining rooms, bedrooms and laundry rooms they lived and worked in—to think, dream, imagine and create their artwork. In the mid 1970’s—when Women’s Studio Workshop (WSW) was founded— little had changed.

Linda Nochlin’s now famous 1971 essay entitled “Why Have There Been No Great Women Artists” laid out the cultural conditioning barring women from equal access to creative resources and opportunities:

“…men who yearn to fulfill themselves through what are often termed “feminine” artistic interests can find themselves as painters or sculptors, rather than as volunteer museum aides or part time ceramists, as their female counterparts so often end up doing.” (excerpted from ARTNews, 1971)

In 1974, four working artists—Ann Kalmbach, Tatana Kellner, Anita Wetzel, and Barbara Leoff—developed Women’s Studio Workshop (WSW), a female-aligned artist studio workspace in a two-story single-family home in the Hudson Valley town of Rosendale NY, 100 miles from NYC. For Ann, Tatana, Anita, and Barbara, WSW was a way to get the space and time they needed to create, and that they did not have access to in NYC’s male-dominated art world.

WSW’s founders had vision and industry. Etching was in the living room, papermaking was in the attic, and screen printing was in the basement. Meals were communal gatherings, a place to share experiences, talk about work, and bond. They supported their own aspirations and each other’s.

Less than a decade later, in 1983, WSW moved to a larger building and property just a mile from the original site. There was room for guest artists to come for creative residencies. The founding spirit of community and support was instilled in this new space. The WSW Artist in Residence program was born.

It has been 36 years since WSW offered its first residency. However, challenges remain for women-identified artists to find the resources (e.g., travel funds, childcare, time away from work) to participate in WSW’s residency program. WSW’s new leadership, staff, countless volunteers and the local community come together to provide for WSW and its artists, always, with the goal of raising enough money to fully support every residency.

WSW is proud to announce that is has achieved this goal! As of January 2019, WSW now provides fully-subsidized residencies for all artists in its Artist in Residence program.

Former New York State Council on the Arts Executive Director and current WSW Board Member Lisa Robb sums up the importance of this progress:  

“WSW’s pioneering efforts to create a campus and programs to encourage the voice and vision of female aligned visual artists began more than 40 years ago and continues to thrive and grow. The lynchpin of the WSW magic is the Artist in Residency program which has served 850+ artists from across the nation and around the globe. In 2019, WSW is providing ten different types of fully subsidized residencies. This accomplishment, decades in the making, illustrates the profound power, impact, and relevance of WSW’s work in the 21st century.”

In offering fully supported residencies, WSW joins alongside some of the nation’s most prestigious artist residency programs including Yaddo, The MacDowell Colony, The Millay Colony for the Arts—and becomes one of only a few, fully funded residencies that are focused on supporting current and future generations of women-identified artists.

Melissa Sandor is a strategic non-profit consultant and writer based in Brooklyn, NY. She is the former Interim Executive Director of the Millay Colony for the Arts. In her role as a strategic consultant, Sandor has worked with more than 40 NYC and national organizations including Alliance of Resident Theatres/NY, Broadway Housing Communities, American Craft Council, New York City Ballet, Sugar Hill Children’s Museum of Art & Storytelling, Central Park Conservancy, Ballet Hispanico, and many others. Sandor is a MacDowell Colony for the Arts Fellow (’13), a two-time Millay Colony resident (’08 and ’09) where she received a 2009 Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation Creative Fellowship, and a 2018 Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Arts Writing Fellow at the Maggie Allesee National Center for Choreography (MANCC) at Florida State University. Sandor’s writing has appeared in Ploughshares and BOMB Magazine.